Love your job or seek another

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Physical Therapist Working with Patient
Physical Therapist Working with Patient

Dave, my physical therapist, says he doesn’t feel like he’s going to work. Middle-aged, he doesn’t think he’s really worked since he got out of college. Loves his work.

He owns a bunch of therapy centers and enjoys helping people overcome aches and pains. He’s friendly with every patient. I’ve noticed when I’ve been in for treatment that his mostly young therapists appear so patient and respectful toward everyone.

I’ve often needed a few treatments over the years So most of the staff know me by name. At 77, I don’t expect the therapists to turn me into a 47-year-old. But I’m always improved after a few sessions.

The added benefit is that the treatments get me out of the house and around people. After you’ve been retired a few years, it’s easy to become isolated.

I’d guess that to feel in the mainstream of life is one reason many retirees make themselves useful by volunteering. After I retired from the paper, I did some tutoring, first at my wife’s elementary school, then at the downtown library.

I suppose as much as anyone, I’ve been lucky getting jobs that I enjoyed and found meaningful. During college years, I even enjoyed at least parts of my part-time jobs.

One summer I worked at a wire die shop where Dad, a tool and die maker by trade, made sure the machines kept running.

Summers, at two religious colleges, I painted dorm rooms and one chapel, earning enough to pay for tuition, room and board. Did I love doing handyman kind of work? I’d have to be honest and admit I hoped to end up doing something more interesting to earn a living.

I did. I enjoyed teaching high school and college. It turned out I had a knack for writing editorials, which I did until I retired.

Of course, I appreciate that many people get stuck in jobs they don’t enjoy or find meaningful. That’s one reason I think it’s so important for salaries to compensate not only for the work but for what it lacks in meaning.

My advice to people who aren’t happy in their jobs is to make a plan for doing something else. That might entail returning to school, which many people do. It might mean applying for a different job. It might mean asking management what other opportunities the company offers.

Dad sold vacuum sweepers for a while. He also tried selling frozen food freezer plans, a product I haven’t heard of since the 1950s. But he always went back to machine shops. I’m sure he was good at the work. I recall he could easily read blueprints upside down.

He also was a trophy-winning amateur golfer, but that’s another Dad story.

I realize that changing jobs isn’t always simple. A person risks losing retirement benefits. The person might have financial obligations that other employment doesn’t pay enough to cover as well as the current job. Starting at the bottom in a different factory wouldn’t appeal to someone middle-aged with grown children.

Still, the workplace in America is so varied, so rich in diverse opportunities that a dissatisfied employee doesn’t have to stay stuck for the rest of the person’s working life.

This country remains the land of opportunity. I’d like to believe it remains the land of opportunity for each person.

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Dr. King at Plymouth

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mlkI picked up my daughter Robyn at her apartment and then headed for Plymouth Congregational Church in downtown Fort Wayne.

The event was the annual memorial service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I believe I’ve only missed one of these services. That was the year my wife Toni and I lived in Washington, D.C. when she was a program officer for the National Science Foundation.

So that must be about 20 such services I’ve attended through the years. I’m always inspired by the music, often even the preacher. Black or white, you could tell the speaker had put a lot of preparation into the sermon.

One year, Dick Hamm, a Disciples minister, longtime friend, brought the packed audience to its feet. I also recall the Rev. Jesse White, a black minister, who stirred people in like fashion.

Yesterday afternoon, the organizers departed from the usual program. Instead of one often eloquent sermon, the Rev. Bill McGill, himself a gifted black preacher, delivered Dr. King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop…” sermon.

I thought the change made a lot of sense. I’m not sure I got to thank the Rev. John Gardner, Plymouth’s senior minister, for whatever role he played in the change. I didn’t miss the usual sermon.

Robyn and I sat toward the front on the right side of this great sanctuary. My old friend Bill’s reading was so powerful I just closed my eyes and could hear Dr. King speaking to the striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

Other clergy offered readings suited to the occasion. I was especially moved by one black female minister who occasionally speaks at Plymouth. Truly a gifted person.

The Heartland Chamber chorale provided special music. I didn’t recognize the spirituals, which is unusual. A young woman and a young man offered solos, backed up by the chorale. We all joined in to sing what’s known as the Negro National Anthem – “Lift every voice…”

At the end, we joined hands to sang “We shall overcome…” What else?
During the reception, I visited with a few old friends, people I nearly always see at the King event. I did greet a couple of folk from our Unitarian church. Seeing friends, no matter how I know them, is one of the things that makes the annual visit to Plymouth a highlight of my year.

Today is the official King holiday. What memories the occasion brings back for me. At the paper over more than a quarter century, I wrote scores of editorials calling on the school district to desegregate its elementary schools.

I cheered on the civil rights crusades, whether for voting rights, fair housing, the King holiday and equal employment opportunities. The country indeed has seen great progress. Who would ever have dreamed during the years Dr. King led the movement that we’d elect a black president? Twice?

We’re not there yet, judging people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, as King used to put it.

I feel proud to have played a minor role in crusading for civil rights in our community. I’m sure I’m not the only person who attended the service Sunday who resolved to do more this year on behalf of civil rights.

As much as I love this annual service, these events aren’t the most important legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His most important legacy comes when we see real changes in our communities. Yes, we shall overcome someday. It can’t come soon enough.

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Snowbound, hardly

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WEATHER19-- From left, Alex Myar, 12, Tristen Allen, 11, and Ebin McLaughlin, 11, walk around downtown Idaho Spring trying to finds work shoveling walk ways. So fare the boys have made ten dollars shoveling snow. Winter is going out like a lion today in much of Colorado, with snow fall and cold weather making its mark the day before spring arrives. RJ Sangosti/ The Denver Post  (Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

I tipped the boys five bucks. Probably brothers, high schoolers, I guessed.

It looked like they’d done a good job shoveling the walks and driveway.

I never haggle with kids about the price. When I was growing up in Defiance, Ohio, I didn’t tell people what I charged. I just thanked them for what they gave me.

I guess even then anybody could see I never was going to be a businessman.

Today, I’d prefer to stay home. But I’ve got an appointment with the physical therapist and I need to go to the store. Thanks to my young workers, I’m confident I’ll be able to get out of the driveway.

I really don’t mind the snow. Today, our backyard hill has taken on an eerie aspect, not quite a moonscape but other worldly nonetheless. Nothing quite compares with the quiet beauty of fresh snow.

As I gaze out the sliding glass doors for a minute, I’m easily transported to another place, another time. I’m magically back in Defiance, dragging my Red Ryder sled two blocks past the Episcopal church to the riverbank.

I might stop at Davy’s half a block from my house to see if he’s up for sledding. Later, I might enlist neighborhood kids to build a snowman or erect a fort. Of course, snowball fights would follow.

I don’t recall getting a day off school for snow days. I think all of us in the neighborhood walked either to Slocum elementary or the Catholic school. Farm kids of course rode a bus to school.

The mailman is running a bit late today. I just saw him across the street. I imagine last night’s snowfall slowed down delivery in the city. A granddaughter was supposed to start a new job in a nearby town. She has a bit of a drive. I didn’t hear whether she was able to make it to work on time.

Tonight, President Obama will give his last State of the Union address. The event is another happening in January. No snow in Washington, of course. But surely overcoat weather there.

I’ll tune in for the speech. I’ve always liked Obama and will miss him. I met him at a luncheon for editorial writers in Chicago when he was still a U.S senator and also a candidate for president.

This year Americans will have another chance to break down an older barrier. We might well elect a woman as president. I spent a bit of time with Bill Clinton when he was still governor of Arkansas but never met Hillary.

So here it is, January, a time in this part of the country for snow and an important speech on television. I suppose the boys who shoveled our walks and driveway will skip the speech and hope they’ll get another day off school.

Yet the State of the Union speech could end up being a lot more important to their young lives than the five dollar tip I gave this morning. But I give them credit for making the most of a snow day. Maybe I should have tipped them more.

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January is OK, too

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2016-new-year-ss-1920I promised my wife Toni that I’d help take down the Christmas tree tomorrow.

Yes, I know it’s well into the new year, January 8 to be exact. I suppose a lot of people take down their tree and put away the ornaments and decorations the day after Christmas.

I’m glad to enjoy looking at the tree and the various collections of Santas and Christmas stockings for a few more days, even a week. What’s the rush?

We’re not the only family that spends a month getting ready for the holiday. Merchants at the mall aren’t featuring specials on Easter decorations. The sales are a bustling postscript to Christmas.

I made an appearance there just this morning. Mere rain doesn’t prevent me from hiking in nearby Foster Park. I just slip on my waterproof jacket and pants. But today it was cold enough to freeze in spots. I can get my walk in if it’s mostly ice. I just slip my spikes onto my New Balance shoes. Some ice on the walk sends me to the mall.

I suppose I’ve been saying for years that the Christmas holiday is over too fast. Well, if you’re just counting hours, you’ll see the holiday lasts just the same time as every other day of the year.

But I do enjoy the weeks of build-up, the shopping, the carols, the planning and the nice mood the holiday seems to have conferred on everybody.

For most people, it’s now back to the routine. Teachers and students have heard the bells and have joined everybody rushing down the hallways. The teachers’ lounge empties. Now from the front of the classroom, the she appeals for attention from students eager to share their holiday adventures.

Meantime, factories and stores fill with employees and customers. The newsroom where I spent a big chunk of my adult life settles back into a familiar routine. Even New Years’ hangovers have become just an unwelcome memory.

Well, nearly 12 months of a new day lie ahead. What will I make of this next year? In my student years, I could vow to study more, study harder. As a family featuring a spouse and children materialized around me, I could vow to listen better and help out more.

But at 77, I’ve probably exhausted the resolutions I could conjure. I wouldn’t say I’m as good as I’m going to get. Realistically, that’s probably the case, though I can hope for making minor course corrections.

I can think of two things to look forward to in 2016. First, I mean to do all the exercises the therapist has given me to cure my sore arm and shoulder. Second, I’m sure Toni and I will agree on our next travel adventure.

Of course, there’s that Christmas tree to take down and put away for next year. The season will be here before you know it. I can’t wait.

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It’s still exercise

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Glenbrook Square - courtyard
Glenbrook Square – courtyard

Look, I’m not an idiot.

I absolutely must walk a few miles every day.

But at age 77, I’m not taking any chances of slipping on the snow or ice.

I’ve had a broken elbow. I’m not interested in a reprise by hiking through the park when the pavement is partly covered with frozen stuff.

So, as I’ve done for years under such weather conditions, I headed for Glenbrook mall on the other side of the city.

Three things I’m sure of. First, no matter how early, it will be open, dry and safe for walkers. Second, I won’t be the only geezer walking briskly around this half-mile route.

Third, my mall walk will be the most boring thing I do all day.

For exercise, the mall just can’t compete with the park. Yes, even in the winter when the leaf-bare trees have taken on a ghostly aura. Yes, even when the temperature is near zero.

All I ask is dry pavement. Then I head out, dressed in multiple layers of pants, sweatshirts and scarves. Believe it or not, Foster Park is still alive as Julie Andrews might well sing with the sound of music.

Sparrows, squirrels and a few crows never fail to greet me.

After such an outing, I return back to our ranch house tired but exhilarated.

Now my physical therapist advises me that I can resume jogging in March. I can tell my stress fractured heel remains tender.

Yet despite my dislike of driving across town to walk at the mall, I’m still thankful I’ve got a place to walk. It’s safe. Like all shopping malls, our mall has a huge bookstore.

I got 30 percent off the new John Irving novel. So this otherwise unwelcome trek, had an nice bonus. I see it’s nearly time for the PBS New Hour.

All in all, despite the snow and ice, I’d have to say it’s been a good day.

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New Year’s reflections

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Foster Park in the winter
Foster Park in the winter

I didn’t think it was that cold this morning that most of the other walkers and joggers would stay in bed.

But Foster Park was virtually deserted. The “guys” weren’t out. That’s the group of black friends who walk together and visit every day. Maybe they’ll be out later.

I covered my usual four-plus miles. Dave, my physical therapist, told me I could return to jogging in March.

My wife Toni and I stayed home New Year’s day. Of course, I headed for the park and a vigorous walk first thing. We shared a light dinner in the evening, after the news. Then we watched a modern version of a Sherlock Holmes story on TV. Conan Doyle wouldn’t approve.

This winter, we’ve been lucky. No snow. I say lucky because I lost interest years ago in sledding and skiing. Snow can make my joggings treacherous even though I wear spikes on my running shoes.

The turn in the calendar to another year doesn’t have me trying to think of a couple of resolutions. I concluded some years ago that I probably am about as good as I’m going to get. Anyway, I know that once I return to jogging, my weight will inch back to where my old pants will fit again.

By now, at age 77, I’ve learned to take things one day at a time. Most of the time I’m pretty content. I might join Toni to go to the mall. But I can seldom think of something I need. I do the grocery shopping at Kroger’s every week because I enjoy getting out of the house.

I simply follow Toni’s list for purchases, deviating rarely for something I think she forgot or might like.

With the beginning of a new year, her life has taken on a new turn. Her term as congregational president of our Unitarian congregation has ended. She remains, though, on the church board. For her, I’m pretty sure the change means more time to quilt.

Friends invited us to join them New Year’s Eve. They’re both retired now, Jan from teaching and Steve as vice chancellor at the university. They’re moving to the New Jersey coast to be near one of their kid’s family.

We weren’t the only people who left the party before ringing in the new year. By 11 p.m. I realize I’m pretty much ready for bed and probably not making any sense in conversation with our hosts’ other guests.

Even lacking resolutions, I do look forward to this coming year. Son John is getting married to this really nice woman named Cynthia. (Aren’t we lucky to love in-laws?) Daughter Robyn recently started a new teaching job, Spanish as always. She says she loves her new students.

Within days or a few weeks, Toni and I will start planning our vacations and travel for the coming year. A week at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York? I’ve always said that planning vacation trips is more fun than the actual trip.

For my part, I’m thinking about writing a new book. I’ll try to get to it before the end of January. If not, I have the luxury of not having an editor bugging me to produce copy.

Meantime, I manage to not write about the news. I can’t say the violence appears any greater than when I was commenting every day on international and national events. Like everybody else who follows the news, I find it all distressing and pointless.

At my age, the challenge is to stay as healthy as I’m able. So in the morning I’ll be back in the park, taking note of how high the river has lately become and greeting any friends, regulars on the trail, with a hearty “Happy New Year.”

I promise to do my best to make it one.

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No Christmas hangover here

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It was a good thing my sister-in-law Patti invited us for dinner the day after Christmas.

That meant I didn’t have a bunch of dirty dishes to rinse and put in the dishwasher. I got to check out the evening news on PBS. Once again, life is good.

I do remember those post-Christmas days of my childhood. This year in the Midwest, temperatures hit the 60s, even the 70s in some locales. But in the late 1940s in Defiance, Ohio, I could depend on snow, even enough on the ground for sledding. Forget that this year.

But back in the 1940s, the topic of conversation among my pals in the neighborhood wasn’t homework or mean ole’ Mrs. So-and-So. It was “What did you get for Christmas?”

This year, nobody at our Unitarian church brought up the subject. People greeted me. After the service, during coffee hour, I visited quite a while with a middle-age woman who told me she celebrated the holiday alone, with only a cat to keep her company.

I mentioned this to my wife Toni and she said we’d have to invite this person to our Christmas celebration next year. I knew that would be her reaction when I shared this news. For goodness’ sake, nobody should be alone on Christmas.

On the subject of gifts, I came out pretty well. New DVDs, a red cotton sweater – I had given away my old one – and a calendar that features a New Yorker cartoon for each day of 2016. At the family gift exchange, I received a pair of socks that contain an electric heater. Word got to my sister-in-law Lori that I complain about cold feet.

The truth is that through the years, I’ve amassed such a collection of things, including clothes and books, that I must be among the biggest challenges for any family member to figure out what to give me for Christmas.

As always, the gifts are the sideshow. Yes, the meals are special, too. Especially the desserts. I suppose most people would say that the truly great thing about a Christmas gathering is spending this precious time with family and good friends.

The conversation can be about new jobs or old ones. It can turn to news and national politics. Or how much this or that child has grown and the new skills or words the child can now show off. Our five-year-old great niece now feels comfortable entering into the conversation at the table just like an adult.

Two days later finds me still thinking about each one of the family. That includes the granddaughter we picked up at the Indianapolis airport just in time to share this holiday. She returns to her job in LA New Years Day. I wonder what new adventures she’s headed for.

For my part, I headed this morning for my four-mile hike through nearby Foster Park, attended the Unitarian church service after that. Soon I’ll plunge into my Sunday reading of my home delivered New York Times.

Yet it’s even a more special Sunday today. I’ve got a head full of Christmas memories. and a few new possessions I’ll make good use of. At 77, I couldn’t ask for more.

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A walk in the woods

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redwoodpecker
I don’t recall ever seeing a red-bellied woodpecker on my daily four-mile hike through Foster Park. But there he was today, between my path and the woods along the river.¬†Seeing that bird drew my attention to others along the way, not only sparrows but also quite a few robins.

I soon forgot about keeping up my usual pace and began wondering what the heck robins were doing this far north in Indiana. I don’t believe I ever noticed robins this late in the season.

If robins have been venturing this far north in the Midwest, this late in the year, what’s the meaning of the ancient expression from these parts in the spring – “first robin”?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have that much interest to conduct a computer search on the subject. My guess is that robins hang around these days until the weather turns much colder.

Until yesterday, it had been unseasonably warm here. Now I don’t necessarily attribute that to global warming, although I’m sure the climate scientists haven’t made up this stuff.

(There’s lots more evidence of global warming than evidence for the existence of God. But that’s for another blog entry.)

But here we are, just days before Christmas, and we’ve yet to see the first snow. Maybe flakes fell during the night. Right now, it’s cloudy enough and cold enough to snow.

What I did notice on my walk through the park this morning – besides the woodpecker- was fewer walkers. Did I miss them because I headed out too early? Or did the cold snap scare them off?

I’m too addicted to this morning walking routine to let cold weather stop me. I’ll go out if it’s zero or even below. Of course, I have clothes for the cold. If there’s a bit of snow or ice on the pavement, I’ll strap my spikes on my shoes.

Now if the snow is five or six inches deep, I’ll shovel the driveway and head for a walk at the mall on the city’s north side. It’s a good thing I usually can walk in the park through the winter. I would really miss the outdoors.

Also, I find exercising at a gym to be too boring to tempt me to join that alternative. In any case, I believe my daily walk, push-ups and other exercises are keeping me fit and alive at age 77. Moreover, my routine does wonders for my mood.

Most of the time, if I’m not downright happy, I’m quite content. I suppose I’m as content as that woodpecker that greeted me in the park this morning.

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Young believer makes his wish

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Ottawa, ON - November 17, 2007-Santa Claus waves to the kids at the  Annual firefighter Help Santa toy parade  in Ottawa, Saturday, November 17, 2007  Photo by Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen, Canwest News Services (For Ottawa Citizen story by ???, CITY) ASSIGNMENT NUMBER 87308
Ottawa, ON РNovember 17, 2007-Santa Claus waves to the kids at the Annual firefighter Help Santa toy parade in Ottawa, Saturday, November 17, 2007.   Photo by Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen, Canwest News Services

It didn’t make any sense that Santa would show up at a store front on Clinton Street in Defiance, Ohio.

But I was young enough to still believe. Sort of. Like the other kids who had been in line ahead of me, I climbed on this fat guy’s lap and informed him that I wanted an electric train like the one in the B.F. Goodrich window.

I didn’t pull on his beard to see if it were the real thing. My parents raised me to be respectful of my elders. Indeed, I noticed that the beard appeared to be growing out of Santa’s face. I was right. Maybe his old gentleman was not just a fat guy dressed up in a red suit.

I must have been old enough to be in school that year, so let’s say seven or eight. I had walked by myself from school, down Clinton Street. I don’t know if Mom and Dad suspected that I was becoming a Santa skeptic. In any case, they pretended that I was still a believer.

I’m sure I let them know about my visit with the “jolly old elf.” More important, I’m sure I shared with them what I told him I wanted for Christmas. Grownups would have called that covering your bets.

I didn’t teach my own children to believe in Santa Claus. When they were just kids, I suppose I worried how learning the truth would teach them not to trust people.

I’m not sure I was right. I’m sure I’m not the only person who played lots of make-believe games as a child. As an only child, I readily invented brothers and other playmates. In fact, I created an entire roster for my team at 602 Jefferson Avenue.

My favorite radio show in those days was called “Let’s Pretend.” It richly fed my imagination. At some point it occurred to me that Santa was just another make-believe character whose magic brought joy to lots of children. It doesn’t follow that those children grow up to become skeptics.

In my case, I spent eight years in theological schools long before I doubted the existence of a spiritual world. It had nothing to do with learning that Santa was make-believe.

Even with my perspective on religious belief these days, I find the season magical. Christmas not only prompts people to give to charities. It seems to stir people to be friendlier.

Its not as if they don’t want some stranger who really is Santa to think they’ve been naughty. Rather, the season draws us closer to family and friends. The season reminds us that it’s better to give than to receive. I’m not alone to love that feeling. More blessed?
Sure it is.

It turns out that Christmas isn’t so much about make-believe characters. It’s not “Let’s Pretend” time. It’s not even about buying and receiving gifts. It’s not even so much about religion, although anyone can love the birth stories of Matthew and Luke.

I think the way we celebrate this season mainly is about our common humanity. Unlike any other time, we reach out to others and they reach out to us.

As I write this, I see the Christmas tree all lighted up in the corner of the living. The wreaths pick up that theme on the front door and over the mantle. The miniature Santas and Father Christmases that preside over it all join to make this such a special time.

Throughout the year, we may often feel otherwise. But these days we know the truth. We are not alone. “Joy to the World” – we are not alone.

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Pete’s in my Hall of Fame

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Pete Rose
Pete Rose

I’ll be up front here. If it were up to me, I would have lifted Major League Baseball’s ban on Pete Rose in a minute.

I know that he broke the rules. I know he bet on baseball. I know he even bet on games when he was managing the Reds. I know he continues to bet. I know he promised to quit even after his ban in 1989.

On the surface it looks like Pete was banned for his gambling. That’s a cardinal sin if you want to be associated with the majors or the minors of baseball. It should be a cardinal sin.

It’s true that other greats of MLB have been banned for less – Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and many others.

I have to say poor Pete. Even recently, when he met with Commissioner Rob Manfred, he changed his story. Yes, he got his facts mixed up. No doubt, his attorney had him rehearse his account many times before the Manfred meeting.

The truth is that Pete’s 1989 ban isn’t being continued because he can’t get his story straight. I’m not sure I’d agree that he’s still out of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for getting fuzzy with details. After all, he is 74.

I think Pete remains banned for life mainly for having an serious addiction. I believe that you’d have to call a gambling addiction a mental illness. I do. I’d guess Pete has been self-medicating by placing bets. Of course, it doesn’t help that he apparently lacks even a thimble of common sense.

Nevertheless, his behavior even after the ban appears simply irrational. Only an affliction with mental illness accounts for it.

For me, here’s the real story. This guy’s career record of 4,256 hits puts him in a class of his own. It’s a shame the commissioner couldn’t see fit to bend the rules in honor of this champion without peer.

In the early 1960s, when I was in graduate school in Cincinnati, I often saw Pete sitting at the counter with his coffee at Frisch’s restaurant on Glenway Avenue, near my apartment. He grew up in that neighborhood. He graduated from nearby Western Hills High School where I did student teaching in one of my early careers.

Pete got his haircuts at Bob’s Barbershop on 8th Avenue. Bob was my barber.

So yes, I do feel a connection to this baseball star. I not only admired his hitting prowess. I don’t think I ever witnessed another big leaguer dive so often into second base to stretch a single into a double. They didn’t call him “Charlie Hustle” just for taking to the field running. Which he did.

Personal feelings aside, though, his record of hits is not my imagination. His 26 years now into the ban surely is punishment enough. He deserves to be reinstated to a place of honor. If anybody deserves to have a plaque in Baseball’s Hall of Fame it’s Pete Rose.

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